Sharing a genre with Modern Warfare would probably put this game in fairly decent company. I would also say that Dice have been a pretty solid company. Regardless, I compare bad company to it's close cousin...
You can’t play Bad Company 2 without comparing it to the eponymous Modern Warfare. Luckily for EA DICE, it doesn’t scrub up too badly. It takes its own direction in many ways, and sometimes they pay off. I’m going to talk about how the single player of MW and BC2 compare.
The first two things you’ll notice about BC2 is that control is taken away from you strikingly often, and that every cut-scene is punctuated by a fade to black. This can really pull you out of a moment. Whereas in MW’s intro you are thrown straight into the action, with the intro really being you (potentially) walking limply around while your far more capable teammates kick some arse, the BC2 intro is most definitely a cut-scene, despite you having some mouse control.
Control is taken away from you in a remarkable number of circumstances, and it goes from simply stopping you from moving to as far as, for example, if you’re holding down the trigger of a fully automatic and happen to wave it in front of your team mates, your gun will “skip” as you notably don’t shoot them. There are situations where you are sprinting and will come to a sudden halt at the edge of a sheer drop, because the game relies on you being at the top of that drop, jumping down after a cut-scene.
There are also a remarkable number of times when the screen will simply fade to black. When you don’t expect this to happen, it can really freak you out until you eventually realise that you’ve moved to a cut-scene. The problem is, often this doesn’t need to happen, as sometimes the game will fade out and then fade back in again with everything exactly the same as it was before. However, this makes some sense, because while MW is an extremely linear experience with a fair bit of theatrics around making it seem like there’s a real war going on, BC2 really is big.
The BC2 environments are lush, detailed, and really big. You’ll quickly come to realise that if you don’t want to rush enemies one way, you can always come in another way to take them down. Couple this with the destructible environment, and the game feels far more dynamic and interesting than MW. Instead of having explosions feel “staged” after loading a game like in MW, in BC2 you can kill a guy with an RPG, load, and this time have another guy blow up a different building and having your cover exposed in a completely different way.
However, even BC2 doesn’t let you stray far. If you are too aggressive, you sometimes get killed and it’s rather... inexplicable, where the bullets came from. As long as you play nice, the game will give you enough rope. Interestingly, the game has various vehicles which range from Quad bikes to tanks, APCs, and choppers. This can result in a few interesting things happening: Whenever there’s a tank or other vehicle there is often a conspicuous RPG sitting around (although there’s often RPGs sitting around; maybe I just notice them more when a tank rolls by). The vehicles do remarkably little damage — while a sniper might kill you in a single shot, a vehicle might take two. Finally the vehicle sections always throw the balance off. I tend to die a lot in the vehicle sections alone, because those things are unpredictable, very strong, and do a lot of damage.
Often the only way to approach a vehicle is from the front, and you’re very likely to get hit. It’s luck of the draw whether it moves forward into the C4 trap you laid or if it hangs back and takes shots at you. Because a lot of these do splash damage it’s also pot luck on whether a shot will land near you or not. While it’s still fun taking these vehicles out, it can be a little hit or miss. Still, it’s a huge change from MW, where I think you may take out a single tank but it feels very staged. There’s also vehicle on vehicle action, which is superb.
I know I’ve already mentioned the huge environments, but the variations and detail you see is sometimes amazing. Unlike MW where I really didn’t look up or down much, in BC2 you’ll sometimes be climbing really steep hills and have to look on top of a sheer drop above another hill, which has you looking and shooting almost straight up! Sometimes you’ll have to climb down stairs and have to shoot nearly straight down. The environments vary from desert to jungle to city, and they stretch back an enormous distance. There is a level where you are looking down on a city built on a hill, and there’s just so many buildings there, and all of them are destructible, that it’s breathtaking — the gigantic destructible environment is the real achievement for the DICE guys, and it really leaves something like Red Faction in the dust.
Speaking of dust, there’s a lot. From sand blowing in the desert, to the rubble of a building after it’s been shot by an RPG, to a helicopter kicking up dust, it makes visibility hard and is a fairly interesting game mechanic. It also adds a lot of atmosphere to the game. Sometimes you have to really guess when targetting your enemy, because they’ll often be firing at you. Other times you just nade in their ballpark.
The stories between MW and BC2 are also markedly different. While in MW you’re an obedient soldier (or soldiers, really), in BC2 you’re part of a team which is fucked by pretty much everyone, from the government to other arms of the military to your enemies. Whereas in MW you feel like you have the might of your whole country behind you, in BC2 you sometimes get dropped in a place and it feels like “man it's just me and these 3 other guys, and if we all die no one is even gonna know”. MW is a game telling the story of politics and warfare, and asking questions of what justice is, and whether war is right. BC2 is primarily a game about 4 guys who, despite their failings, love their homeland. Pretty much everyone else abuses them.
The characters have been described as fairly stereotypical (there’s the black guy, the nerdy guy, the Texan guy, and you, who is a non-descript white guy). If you think about it more than casually though, you’ll come to realise that this is a good way to quickly introduce you to new characters (they can’t exactly give you an introduction, since you’re supposed to know them already). It also functions as a good way to know who people are on the battlefield (because computer graphics are good now, but they’re still not that good). The story is also fairly intricate and told well. I believe it has an emotive impact that is as strong as MW, considering the relative open-ness of the game.
MW was an achievement in the game lying to you effectively, leading you through a single path and yet letting you feel like you’re in control. BC2 gives you that control plumb at your finger-tips, and adds some unique things to boot. It can be a bit clumsy at times, but I think it succeeds at giving players something new and interesting.